Philosophers Of Christ

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Different religions are supposed, ideally, to get members into some kind of relationship with God or Christ that will give them a greater awareness of God or Christ. This kind of relationship with God or Christ is to "spiritualize" people so they will have more awareness of the real spiritual values that come about with an awareness of a fit mutual relationship with God.

In some of the old ways of religion, which are to some extent still practiced, religions dwindled into:

Organizations about God. These organizations had creeds about Him. These creeds were interesting but only told ABOUT God. They did not always encourage or really even desire a personally aware relationship with God. All this meant joining the church was about as life changing as membership in the Elks Club or any other charitable society.

The organizations about God did relatively little but argue about the different creeds of God with the selfish intention of empire building for their own particular denominations in mind. All this was was boring and tame. Thus the churches tended to become rather boring and tame.     In being boring there was ecumenical Christian unity nearly everywhere.

Now John Calvin remarked that the true Christian church was wherever the Word "the Biblical essence" was truly preached and the sacraments truly administered regardless of the name of the group or denomination. On a practical basis this meant that though the denominations all had different names, all of them probably had at least one congregation where the Word was preached through grace and the sacraments were spiritually administered.

Now this meant the great argument among the churches thus became which church was preaching the Word correctly and administering the sacraments correctly. Which had the right techniques? People were burned alive as heretics over these nonsensical arguments. The discussions were petty and technique oriented to say the least.

The churches were now off the high transcendent level of God. In fact God seems to have often been forgotten by many people as they argued about the techniques He used. The sublime had been rendered trivial and ridiculous. God had been forgotten. The creeds about Him had taken His place in discussion.

On one hand people were really hung up on agreement instead of God. And the question is, of course, why is agreement about God necessary? The mind of God is infinite, and the mind of man is finite, so there will always be fragmentation and disagreement because the mind of
man is not big enough to hold the entirety of God's mind.

The ridiculous idea that was entertained in "Western" creed centered religion seems to have been that there should be agreement in mind and organization. But since man's mind is finite, and God's mind is infinite, none could get ALL of God's mind, and there would bound to be different minds. And where there are different minds, there must be differently thinking organizations.

Why are different organizations so bad? I don't see that they are. Agreement is not necessary for love to go on. Those in a family may disagree. Those in a family should and could disagree. In fact that family will be a sick, very sick one when some of the members do not have some disagreement. That family will be, I submit for your thinking, an unusual group of unoriginal, conventional, unthinking, and very insecure neurotics. The very idea of a family like that is frightening.

The family of God like the family of man will disagree. Count on it. Given the infinity of God, who can be seen to be symbolically a wide and brilliant prism of light and life where no one color has a monopoly, no one person or one group or one spiritual light is going to catch the full light. The challenge is not to take in all of the light, but to be true to the light you have seen or been given the grace to see.

But what is a way all Christian denominations, no matter how they may agree or disagree, can get along and still respect the difference they may have with various creeds? My thinking is not to be creed centered and churchy but instead to put your emphasis and time on a truth nearly all may agree on.

Erasmus, the great Renaissance theologian had a concept he called, "the philosophy of Christ." That is, all should use the plain and simple teachings of the Son of God, Jesus, as their path, guide, philosophy and way of living. The idea is to steep yourself in the Gospels, become familiar with the teachings and parables of Jesus, then in confusing situations ask yourself simply, "What would Jesus do?"

Erasmus, a pre-Reformation thinker, had a great influence on Zwingli, a great thinker in Protestantism. He studied the plainness, gentleness, tough realism and compassion of Jesus. He saw that a poor man or a simple person could follow the teachings of Jesus shown in the Gospels as well or better than many intellectual or well schooled people might. Too much education can often be confusion making. Or morally undermining.

The answer for Erasmus and Zwingli, Protestant and Catholic, was not to do away with creeds and doctrines which sometimes helped people. But to put creeds and differing denominational doctrines in their correct place, which is secondary to a simply lived and living faith.

Be a philosopher of Christ, trying first to use the simple ways, parables and truths of the Jesus of the Gospels. I find that it is not the great thinkers and complicated intellectuals who may understand faith best. Indeed, they seem to screw up faith worst. Perhaps only our over schooled liberals could have turned Christianity into the tangled web of materialism and moral deception it now is. Mores' the pity the plainer faith of the people has been laid aside.

But, remember, instead, it is the simple people, the children, as Jesus said who have the child like faith, who are truly of the Kingdom of Heaven. The folk of simple faith, it seems to me, intuitively grasp best what under the circumstances Jesus would do. Can you do likewise?


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.